NEW BERLIN — Former Wood-Mode employees were offered emotional counseling along with career coaching and resume writing tips on Tuesday.
"It's a huge loss" for the 938 employees who abruptly lost jobs when the Kreamer plant closed May 13 after 77 years in business, said Stacey Pearson-Wharton, dean of Health and Wellness at Susquehanna University. "The sudden way that it happened, the loss of security, safety and income ... It's almost like someone has died."
She was available to any employee who visited the SUN Area Technical Institute in New Berlin on Tuesday for mock interviews and resume-writing assistance.
Many of the workers will experience stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining and ultimately, acceptance — as a result of the "sudden way that it happened and the trauma of it," said Pearson-Wharton. "Everybody grieves differently, but they should give themselves time. They should at least give themselves six months to a year to recover."
The impact on the employees cannot be understated, said Erica Mulberger, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp. (CPWDC)
"It's unprecedented. It really is a crisis that needs community involvement," she said.
CPWDC, other agencies and local churches have been organizing job fairs for the former workers. A job fair is scheduled for June 4 at the Selinsgrove Elementary School and another will be held June 11 at the Crossroads Nazarene Church in Milton.
CareerLink will be holding enrollment events on Thursday and Friday at SUN Tech for employees needing unemployment benefits. About 350 employees have been signed up through the CareerLink so far, Mulberger said.
A second Rapid Response team will also be available to answer questions at 1 p.m. Friday, she said.
Heather Ulrich, a Wood-Mode employee for nearly 19 years, came out to the event at SUN Tech to "see what my options are."
The 45-year-old Sunbury resident said she will begin taking GED classes today as she explores her next step.
Meanwhile, CareerLink officials are working to develop a peer-support group and network for former employees.
Pearson-Wharton said staying connected and taking care of themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually is important for the employees at this time.
"They should not allow themselves to be isolated. People may feel alone, but they are not," she said.